While the RV industry generally is in the doldrums, Ron Nash, president of Northwood Manufacturing Inc., La Grande, Ore., hasn’t let that stop a major expansion effort on his part in the Northwest.
In recent months Nash has:
- Purchased for just over $2 million Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s 86,000-square-foot La Grande factory that Fleetwood closed before declaring chapter 11 bankruptcy in March.
- Started another company — Outdoors RV Manufacturing Inc. — hiring about 100 former Fleetwood employees to build four new towable brands in the former Fleetwood plant.
- Acquired more than $200,000 in parts and supplies from Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood as part of a new program to enable Outdoors RV to repair orphaned Fleetwood Prowler, Wilderness, Terry, Mallard and Backpack travel trailers.
- Built a 40,000-square-foot chassis shop adjacent to Northwood’s factory in La Grande, leasing part of it to axle manufacturer Al-Ko Kober, to supply chassis for both Northwood and Outdoors RV products.
Nash, for his part, says he’s in for the long haul.
”This is my job,” Nash told RVBusiness. ”This is what I love doing. Whether there are half as many people in the business when this is all over with, it’s not going to be me that is going to be gone. We have been low key about spending money, and we socked a lot away so that we can do what we need to do.”
The new chassis facility and recently created Outdoors RV lines greatly increase Nash’s presence as a regional manufacturer in the Northwest U.S. and Western Canada. Outdoors RV also puts Nash in the entry-level and lightweight towable markets for the first time.
Outdoors RV has completed 50 units and signed up about 40 dealers since going into production May 19 with the entry-level CreekSide (wood and aluminum), lightweight TamarackTrail (aluminum and fiberglass), TimberRidge (aluminum and laminated fiberglass) and luxury lightweight WindRiver (aluminum and laminated fiberglass) travel trailers. Base MSRPs range from $15,000 for the CreekSide to $29,000 for WindRiver.
Nash reported a backlog of 450 units, an impressive number for a new company in a tough market. ”A lot of our units are being sold through the good Fleetwood dealers who were there before,” Nash said.
Former Fleetwood Vice President Jim Croxton serves as general manager of the new Outdoors RV operations and Darin Nelson is sales manager.
While Nash has focused recently on getting the Outdoors operation up and running, he reported that sales of Northwood’s Nash and Arctic Fox travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Arctic Fox truck campers and Desert Fox sport utility RVs have increased substantially from a year ago.
”Production is down from a few years ago, but last week we did 63 units,” Nash said. ”Truck campers have really taken off. Last year, there were times when we were only six or seven a week.”
Production of the newly named Outdoors units — CreekSide, TamarackTrail, TimberRidge and WindRiver travel trailers — is expected to result in $28 million to $30 million in sales the first year, according to Nash, the former general manager in the early 1990s of the Fleetwood La Grande plant that he bought for just over $2 million.
Fleetwood should emerge soon from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a motorized RV builder under new ownership, but not in towables.
Although moving to fill the market vacuum in travel trailers created by Fleetwood exit, Outdoors RV will not replicate Fleetwood’s offerings.
”We are changing some things to make the product more bulletproof,” Nash said, noting that front caps on Outdoors RV products will be fiberglass instead of ABS to better withstand cold temperatures. Units also will be better insulated and equipped with heated and enclosed holding tanks while radius rubber roofs have replaced fiberglass roofs for the same reason.
”We want to make sure our stuff is more durable,” Nash said. ”Our whole thrust is that customer want units that will stay together, and they want companies that stay together. If the customers aren’t happy, you’re toast.”